Career and Midlife – Life Is Only Just Beginning to Be Exciting

Career and Midlife – Life Is Only Just Beginning to Be Exciting
Career and Midlife - Life Is Only Just Beginning to Be Exciting


“Life is only just beginning to be exciting.”

When considering mid-life career options we have to realize that people today are ageing differently. This is a phenomenon most clearly evident in the fact that we now live well beyond the age of formal retirement. However, our society and its expectations are still geared to the ageing patterns of the past. We need to recognize that ageing in the future will be different to what it is today and has its implications for issues such as welfare, marriage and the concept of work.

The world of work is changing. Listen to these figures.

Full-time workers are becoming an increasingly scarce commodity. In 1974 the percentage of full-time workers stood at 89%. Today that figure has fallen to just under 70% of the workforce. Our aging population and the anticipated early retirement of the baby-boomers is exacerbating this shortage. Furthermore, 25% of working Australians are now self-employed

Increasingly workers will sell their services to organisations for a fee that only partly relates to time spent on a task, but also to the quality of the work that is performed. These people will not so much have jobs, as clients, and they will engage in a portfolio of activities.

Before we look a little further into that I want to insert a vignette:

When thinking about ‘career’ the term can be used to refer to a person’s whole path through life. This broad definition uses ‘career’ to include all major life experiences, such as family, education, employment, marriage, community and leisure activities etc.

Another definition of ‘career’ restricts the meaning of the word to way of making a living, profession, and also a person’s lifelong pattern of work. This could be the activities that appear under a heading of ‘Employment History’ in a person’s resume.

Everyone makes vocational decisions. These choices are crucially important, frequently difficult, and rarely ‘once-in-a-lifetime events’.

When making career decisions it is important to use a ‘holistic’ approach and focus on yourself as a whole person and not just a ‘job seeker’.

It is interesting when considering this that the Hebrew word ‘Avodah’ means both work and worship. The word vocation also has a fascinating origin. It comes from the Latin word ‘vocatio’ meaning to call (the same root as for ‘vocal’. It is based on the idea of God is calling a person to do a certain work or fill a certain position. Work is thus seen as more than a way to earn money. Hence, in modern usage, your vocation means your occupation, business or profession, or the feeling that you care called to a certain kind of work.

The changing nature and organisation of work causes resourceful people to look at ‘piecing together’ several sources of income. Such a collection of work duties is also called a ‘portfolio career’. You can compare it with the advantages that an investor has when purchasing a portfolio of shares.

Charles Handy in his book: “The empty raincoat” has suggested that people will tend to perform four different kinds of work:

  • Paid work, which we perform either for wages or a negotiated fee
  • Gift work, which is undertaken for free in the interest of the community or some part of it
  • Home work, which refers to all chores that we do around our homes, including caring for others in our family
  • Study work, which is our investment in expanding our own knowledge and skills base

A balanced life is a blend of all four, though the mix between them may change over the course of our lives.

The key word is diversifying.There are advantages for an individual who diversifies their work life by carrying out a number of different ‘jobs’ more or less at the same time.

When researching your client’s skills areas you will find that the mid-life career changer usually has a range of marketable skills, so the kind of work done within their ‘portfolio’ may be varied. This can often be more interesting as a package, than having the traditional single job and source of income.

Compare these skills with the employability skills for the future:

  • Written and Verbal Communication(Exchange of Ideas – Interaction)
  • Personal Presentation
  • Confidence and Self Esteem
  • Positive Work Ethics & Teamwork(Cooperation -Joint Effort)
  • Enthusiasm and Motivation
  • Problem-solving(Finding Solutions)
  • Initiative(Resourcefulness) and Enterprise (Undertaking Activities)
  • Adapts to Change and Manages Pressure
  • Planning(Preparing, Making Plans) and Organising (Managing, Coordinating)
  • Self- Management(Motivated to Organize Your Own Tasks and Time)
  • Learning(Gaining Knowledge) and be Technology Savvy(Staying up-to date with New Equipment)

Marcus Letcher says in his book ‘Making Your Future Work’

The Modular Work Model is not about a vague ramble through the labour market making random selections from a range of precarious jobs…. I chose the term ‘modular’ because it implies logical connections, interrelationships and considered arrangements….cash flow is derived partly from self-generated work and partly from salaried work. Fees and wages.


The need to make radical changes can be very painful for mid-life career changers. However, Letcher claims that, armed with appropriate understanding and attitudes, the new modular way of working can turn out to be better for most people than the old way. Letcher’s approach is the discovery of a core-module, the centre-piece of their work collection. This is often a small/business service which they can operate as their own boss.

Around this core-module, the modular worker arranges ‘support modules’ and ‘gap-fillers’ to construct a ‘modular matrix’.

A ‘gap-filler’ appears to be a casual part-time job which may not be greatly enjoyed, but is useful to supply added income, when necessary.

Being on call as a casual check-out operator or evening shelf-packer might be a gap-filler for some people.

How do you locate your core module?

This is where a work autobiography becomes useful again. Consider also hobbies and other activities.


  • Which of the activities excite you most?
  • Which seems to give you energy, not drain it?
  • What do you feel really confident doing?
  • What subjects would you feel most confident discussing at length?
  • If you could spend an entire day doing just one thing, what would it be?

Form small groups and discuss any examples you may know of people who have modular work.

My own example:

  • Sessional Training in a great variety of subjects from Job Search, Business Skills to Personal Development and Image
  • Casual training work for Learning Network Qld last three years – previously also Kingston College and CRSAustralia
  • Career Counselling and Personal Counselling
  • Preparing resumes
  • Drama presentations/ Story Telling/Acting (some paid work)
  • Occasional modelling
  • Workshops in Story Writing and Story Telling
  • Unpaid community involvement

Other example:

A woman who decided she enjoyed working with children although she had no teaching qualifications. She also likes artistic things such as cake-decorating. This led to a modular working scheme featuring:

  • Organising children’ parties (herself dressed up as clown or fairy) the core module
  • Face painting, balloon art, simple magic tricks – support modules
  • Making/decorating customised birthday cakes – support module or gap-filler.

When considering this option, I believe it is important to take into account the personality of your client. Certain people are better able to handle the skills needed to make this option successful.

It is also important to consider that networking is a great strategy for building a modular work scheme and greatly assists with the success rate of this option.

Advantages according to Letcher:

  • Security through diversification (all your eggs are not in one basket)
  • A model that matches new realities
  • Helps people gain control over their jobs
  • Attacks the tyranny of ‘the job’.
  • ‘Unleashes talent’ and ‘encourages passion’
  • Keeps your skills current and diverse
  • Is facilitated by new technologies
  • Is suitable for both partners
  • Is family friendly
  • Builds enterprise
  • Is a balancing act
  • Is occupational therapy’
  • Attacks underemployment

As career adviser it is an important concept that I may present to some of my clients.

The winners in the current employment environment are those who are flexible and adaptable, and keep adding new work skills to their repertoire.

Chinese word for ‘crisis’ is made up of two characters; one meaning danger, and the other meaning opportunity.

Let me encourage you to find the opportunity in situations that present themselves as a crisis. You will find that the adventure can invigorate you!



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